Friday, October 19, 2018

Studying The Westward Expansion with Multiple Ages

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The Westward Expansion deserves a well in depth study as much as our infamous Thanksgiving studies or other well known Americana eras. It was truly a historic time in young America that built our country up and truthfully brought some of it down (just teach that part to the older kids). We are so lucky today to have many journal's and stories of folks living in that era that show us how much determination a living soul would have and how far they'd go to set their families up for success. It's a story, a time of pure unrivaled growth, a tale of right's and wrong's, and a journey so worth remembering for years to come. 

This topic will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first history lesson I taught when I started homeschooling. My son was in the middle of his 7th grade year when we pulled him out of a charter school. I figured we should just pick up where he left off. While we took our time researching core curriculum, the Westward Expansion was studied and studied well. 

Oh how I wish we had the the knowledge of game-schooling and reading novel's to get into a lesson back then. Today you can find so many wonderful resources to tie into this amazing topic. You can tailor it to meet a 3rd grade level, all the way up to high school. Using hands on history, your youngest can make her own pictograph's on a brown paper animal hide while your oldest tries out a fruit leather recipe!! You can weave this lesson together with multiple ages so easily by adding in a fun game or two and virtually go on a journey with Lewis & Clark, meet Sacajawea, or dive into the Gold Rush!! The possibilities are endless!! 

As my young one and I are starting this Westward Expansion unit study now, I wanted to share with you our top picks and how we incorporate them! 

First and Foremost...Books! 

My eyes were opened to the vast wide world of books when we started homeschooling. You mean Barnes & Noble doesn't have it all??!! Exactly...posts like these, from other homeschoolers have opened the door to so many books and we jump on that!! You can find a book on anything nowadays...literally..anything. Young readers would prefer to read a novel over a textbook, so encourage that (it's like sneaking cauliflower into "mashed potatoes" but with knowledge). 

 These are great for grades 5-8! We used the Westward Expansion and Migration. It's very in depth and has fun activities plugged in!

Hands-On Play Learning 

I love to set out our play sets when we learn about specific topics because I have a fidgeter...she cannot sit still. Doing this allows her to move and easily ties into the lesson we are talking about. 


If you asked a high schooler if they'd rather do their regular school work or play a game, guess what their answer would be...You got a game! Why not make it educational and inspire them to read a little more about a word that pops up or a character we haven't read much about yet. Games are treasures!!


Make things!!!! One of the greatest values of this unit is teaching our children about the old ways. Make your own beeswax candles, or a mini covered wagon, or build a teepee!! The kids can have so much fun with this and you might too! 

Also consider keeping out a Nature Journal, bug or flower specimens, and magnifying glass. Or go on nature walks!

The Westward Expansion is absolutely a fun unit to study no matter the age. I hope our list of activities and resources pull you into the journey as well. With books to read, games to play, things to make, your family is sure to love the adventures of Lewis & Clark as much as ours!! 

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Curriculum Planning & Shopping

Curriculum Planning isn't something that just happens at the beginning of the year for every homeschooler. In fact, some of us continuously plan throughout the year, which also leads to shopping throughout the year. Pause right here for a minute..there might be some of you financial whiz kids picking up your jaw right now..I agree it sounds down right naughty doesn't it?!  Let me show you how our family homeschool buying works. 

We Save Tax Return Money. After some big things are paid off, we take a nice little chunk and save it for the homeschool conference in July. This helps us have a game plan going into conference and take advantage of the curriculum sales!! 

We Plan Ahead!  For our high schooler, we try to think ahead and write down elective ideas that he might be interested in. We try to figure out what foreign language he wants to take, which science classes appeal to him, and how far he wants to go in math (as long as we check the state standards' boxes). The electives aren't usually a financial burden, however, he is currently taking an Aviation class- and that took a respectable amount of his funds.  Some of the previously bought curricula can be handed down and used by the other children, or you may need to simply purchase the workbooks that go with the texts. I've also found some curriculum hard to read, understand, or plan with, so those found a new home. If you buy most of the current year's curriculum in July or August, start planning for the spring and following year!! 

Each Child has an Allotment.  This will vary for every household. I won't even share how much we set aside, because I know homeschooling on one income can be a real sacrifice for some families, and truthfully, we could one day be in the same boat.  I do think it is very smart to set aside specific amounts for each child and you can do this by grade. Obviously a High Schooler needs to meet certain graduation criteria, so you have to allow more room for those lab costs and electives, and potentially drivers ed (gasp..that's sneaking up on us as well). A Middle Schooler would need a fair amount also for their own electives and possibly a few labs. Our Elementary schooler uses a laid out curriculum which typically costs about $500 for the year and we leave room for books, music lessons, and dance. 

We shop quarterly. Have you ever realized you forgot to purchase a science book or history guide? With three children in our home (one in elementary, one in middle, and one in high) we get pretty detailed in what purchases we need. Sometimes things slip between the crack and we can forget an important book. I upload all of our book purchases into an online library (Libib) to help keep track! 

Staying Organized is Key. I use curriculum planning sheets, book wish lists, and a binder with dividers to set up each child's shopping plan. It really helps keep me organized. All of our favorite curriculum catalogs stay in a file box too. I am a visual learner, so keeping those handy is better than shopping online. If you're an Amazon addict, organize your wish lists by unit studies or themes! This has helped me tremendously.  You don't have to plan on buying everything from Amazon, but it truly helps with the visual image and price estimate as well. 

I've created a couple planning sheets for you! 

Curriculum Shopping Lists!! 

Book Shopping List with Categories!

To download, simply click on the images! 
I think you'll enjoy these FREE Printable's when planning and shopping for your children!

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Thank you for reading!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

November Morning Basket Planning

November Books, Morning Basket, Thanksgiving

If you're like me, you love to get a head start...sometimes weeks in advance. Honestly I've had most of my November Morning Basket put together for a while, but I keep finding things to add. I'm going to share the fun books & things we have as well as some great additions! Be warned...there are MANY books. 

The Book List
Every MB has a healthy selection of books. Here is an extensive list to choose from. add the toppings.. 
(yes, I am already thinking about my Thanksgiving plate)

Don't feel like you need them all. It can definitely be a small investment. Consider shopping at your local used book store,, or checking them out at the library! 
Even when searching for the 'toppings', I always like to be thrifty. This list idea is INSPIRATION FRIEND!!  

Fun Tip: You can follow Chalk Pastel on Facebook for free weekly videos! 

Stay in touch for the December Morning Basket Resource List! 


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Magic of Music Appreciation

Music appreciation
          It is a chilly morning, the first of many to come I hope.  My small brood all snuggled in blankets on the couch and ready for our morning time. Today we are trying out a new way to study classical music. I am curious how the kids will take it since we usually just listen to a piece of music and then do a small discussion before moving into our books.  As I start looking at the lesson closely I realize that need some copies and the kids need writing materials, so I announce that they get their items and quickly return. A few 'ughhhs' and moans escape. I made them leave their warm little cocoons for a minute. (oh the travesty!) It doesn't take long before they are back in their still warm spots on the couch ready to go!

          After we begin our morning time and start the Music appreciation part, I explain what they are to do on their worksheets, what sounds; tempo, rhythm, and mood to look for. Obviously this is new to them so I carefully detail what each word means. You can see their faces begin to focus and hone it on what they need to do. Intrigued, we begin the first music selection. 

         Let me just say that one minute they were slightly interested, and then the next, their faces completely lit up!! Maybe it was the amazing piece of music we were listening too, or maybe it was the fact they had to imagine what the song was about. They wrote details on their note-booking sheets, drew pictures, and might I add...drew a scary looking creature as their idea of what this music represented! 

         The composition was fun. It was PERFECT for October! It was magical and really opened their eyes to a classical piece of music that has my 14 year old begging to watch the play! This is one of the reasons I am glad we home school. My children aren't too busy with other work to take some time and listen to the classical music that inspired many popular movies and plays worldwide. They get an in-depth study of the song and the composer behind it!! 

Music Appreciation         Today, we used the lesson "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Squilt Music.  I got this lesson as part of Pam Barnhill's Back to School Too bundle, which I love as well. We will be adding more SQUILT Music lessons to our Morning Time now that I've seen how user friendly, and family approved this lesson was! 

Do you incorporate music into your homeschool? 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Essentials For Your Morning Basket

Morning Time is a hot topic right now in the homeschool community. People all over social media  are sharing their schedules, book lists, and other fun ideas and with good reason! Morning time is a great way to start your school days with your kids.  It gives you a way to connect with them and I believe it allows them to slowly wake up before jumping into math. Much like a gentle stretch would prepare you for exercise, morning time carefully stretches our brain with enjoyable activities. 

(You can see our morning time schedule here.) 

1. A Variety of Books 
Morning BasketI love combining beautiful picture books and a couple of read aloud chapter books to go with a theme or holiday. Reading together is an important part of homeschool because we can all get through a book at the same time! We have fun exploring new books and learning a thing or two! For our reading book list, visit the Morning basket tab. 

                                                  2. Journals 
One of the kids' favorite things to do while they listen to me read or an audio book (a sore throat saver), is journaling! We discovered the Thinking Tree Journals not too long ago and fell in love.  There is a lot of coloring that can be done here. ;)  We also use Nature journals for our end of the week research!! I just grabbed two from Twig & Moth for my older kids and the youngest is using this one

3. Art Supplies
My kids prefer good ole markers or colored pencils, but the sky is the limit here!! Maybe you could add in watercolors, oil pastels, or charcoals and have your kids do a themed project!  We sometimes finish out our week with a Chalk Pastel video (I save this for after other work is done because it's messy).

4. Memory Work & Prayer
We add a verse of memory work and recite it daily as well as open with a prayer or hymn. I feel this gives us a bright and positive start to our day and enforces our virtues. The kids get a bit competitive when it comes to reciting by memory and they feel a sense of accomplishment for getting it memorized. If you aren't religious, you can always supplement this with Virtue Cards or another character development item

5. Hands on Activity
This is my favorite part of creating a basket. Honestly the whole basket is fun, but this adds pizzazz to our weeks. We like to add games (most the kids have never seen before), Mad Libs, or some Safari Toob characters and kinetic sand. Really, you can add whatever you want depending on the ages of your kids.  Having been a preschool teacher before, I know how hard it is to keep a child's attention on one thing, so I always try to have multiple things out for the kids to touch and work on. 
Morning Time

This is joy we share with you. It's so nice to start our days with fun and reading! You can see our morning routine here and later I will be sharing our curriculum choices for each child! 

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Morning Basket


Our Morning Time Schedule

Morning Time Schedule
I have to start off being a hundred percent transparent...We DO NOT start our Morning Time at any specific time.  There are some days, we just need to get up when our bodies are ready and not by 6:30 every morning. If we aren't going anywhere, then why rush? 
Our Morning Time begins when all the kiddo's come down, eat breakfast, and feed the starving animals (especially the cat...she tries to beg for second breakfast frequently).  Once the necessities are taken care of, we get nice and comfy on the couches with blankets, coffee for mom, and have our journals/bibles handy. 

Monday:Prayer, Journal, Memory Work, Poetry, Picture Book, & Chapter Book
Tuesday:Prayer, Journal, Memory Work, Music Appreciation, Picture Book, & Chapter Book
Wednesday:Prayer, Journal, Memory Work, Picture Study, Picture Book, & Chapter Book
Thursday:Prayer, Journal, Memory Work, Poetry, Art, Picture Book, & Chapter Book
Friday:Prayer, Journal, Memory Work, Nature Journal, Picture Book, & Chapter Book

I found Pam Barnhill's website a while ago and loved the way she created her morning time plans. For me, the format spoke to me, so I created my own. Since I have older children, I don't need a lot of the younger themes or sources, so I have to adapt- Which is totally okay. Homeschool is CUSTOMIZABLE!!!  

Here is a sample of what our morning plans look like right now. 
Some great places for Music are, Squilt Music, and Masterpiece Society.  Art Study prints can come from anywhere. We've used the Usborne Cards, Exploring Nature with Children, and Charlotte Mason prints. For Nature Studies, there are endless sites to find. If you're just starting out, try! 

We start our plans each day and go from top to bottom. When we finish up a chapter or two of our Read Aloud Chapter Book, then I give them a few minutes to grab a drink and head into the school room. Then we begin our regular day! 

Some people suggest planning loosely because life happens. So there it is.. our morning time schedule! Hopefully this inspires you too!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Five Tips to Avoid Over Scheduling

            I used to be bored...a lot. I kind of miss those days. Even after having two children, I found myself bored. I volunteered, I crafted, I cooked, cleaned, went shopping and I would still have time to feel bored.  After the third child was born, I carefully orchestrated our lives so that everyone had a thing or two do stay busy.  At some point along the way, I became this person that liked and thrived at having things to do. Somewhere in the back of my head, I hear that saying "Idle hands are the devil's tools".. and I just continue to fill my plate. However...I do have limits, and I began to feel tired..really, really tired. 

            We have three children who are getting older and are at the stage where they want to focus on things that they really enjoy instead of trying everything out.  (I don't miss they trying it all out phase).  I don't know about the rest of you...but Momma's tired y'all.  I'm not even the one going to a practice every night and games on Saturday. I've quickly learned that taking my children out of public school and homeschooling is one of the most demanding jobs I've ever had in my life.  

         Today, I can literally open up my planner and find multiple days of each week booked and have a hard time penciling in time with a friend.  My life absolutely revolves around my children and my husband. I try my best to put our family first because he isn't always home. Many a birthday or anniversary was missed due to his job. When he is home, we want to spend time together.  Even if it involves wearing yoga pants and watching tv all weekend. I write all of our plans in erasable pen or pencil because you just have to take some things of your plate if the timing isn't right. 

          Some tips I've picked up on the way continue to help me when I easily over-commit myself. I want to share them with you in case you are in a similar situation. 

  1. Reduce activities to a few nights a week. Having a couple of nights with NOTHING planned is amazing. 
  2. Don't forget about YOU.  Set some time aside to help you clear your head, relax, read a book, or whatever helps you unwind. If your kids are taking a dance class, consider jumping in an adult class during their time to give yourself something magical. (I did's a great use of time and I get exercise!)
  3. Volunteering is a wonderful and sometimes demanding job. Remember it is never your full responsibility to fill a position. Yes, you can actually over extend yourself easily by volunteering. I spent 4 years as a Girl Scout Leader on top of other volunteer positions. It's exhausting and sometimes the rewards go unappreciated. If you feel called to volunteer, don't be too concerned to limit yourself to one or two positions. 
  4. Don't be afraid to put your foot down. When your kiddo's refuse to catch up on their work, it's okay and totally acceptable to cancel one of their evening activities. You get a surprise break, and they might learn something. 
  5. Try to schedule things together. Group your dental appointments into one time slot, schedule music lessons back to back, ask a friend if your child can carpool if possible etc.  I am probably terrible at time management, but this one trick is super helpful when I'm driving. I don't like spending my entire week in the car. ;)
          Some of these probably feel like no-brainers, but in the short circuitry of a mom brain, it's easy to over look the simple things.  Always remember that your children value YOU and the TIME you spend with them more than the things they are continuously doing. If you aren't fully or at least 3/4 rested, what can you really offer them or your spouse? 

           We live in a busy world now. Everyone has something going on and a full calendar unless they prefer life in a wide open space.  It is important that we remember -Life is not a competition. You aren't going to get front row seats in heaven by exposing you or your family to more, or completing your bucket list. Live life - Yes - but prioritize what is important to you!  

           If this post has helped you or enlightened your perspective, please leave a comment below! I'd love to hear about it!

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